Listening to Japanese Music: Monthly Recommendation Round-Up (March 2018)

It’s that time again!

For those who were here last time, welcome back! I hope you have your earphones/headphones/speakers on the ready 😀

And for people who’re either new to the blog or are only seeing this kind of post from me now for the first time; welcome! Just like what the post title there says, this is my link dump round-up of Japanese songs that I’ve listened to and subsequently liked in the past month, giving you guys a sort-of playlist of music recommendations from lil ol’ me. Keep in mind these aren’t always gonna be songs that have just come out within the month (although a majority of them are that), as they could be songs that I only managed to discover, songs I just happened to listen to again, or songs that I want feature so that people would know more about ’em.

Also, and I believe I forgot to address this in my first round-up post, I’m limiting myself to what I can listen to on YouTube. Meaning I do miss out on stuff that I can’t normally listen to without resorting to VPNs and whatnot, nor won’t I end up feature songs without PVs to ensure ease of access (and if you can’t view something, do notify me down at the comments section). Think of it like an MTV of sorts, and I’m just the video jockey introducing you to the “latest” hits ( …you have heard of VJs / I’m not that old right?)

I’ll blabber bit more later (xD)
Let’s get to some listenin’ shall we?

– –

Tenohira de Odoru/掌で踊る, by Soko ni Naru (そこに鳴る)
No one called me out last time for barely featuring any male vocals whenever I post about Japanese music (though crimson sorta alluded to it at one point), so I’ll preempt that before anyone outrightly does so xD

But to be perfectly honest, I don’t really think Soko ni naru is a band you listen to for Suzuki-san’s vocals. You listen to Soko ni naru for Suzuki-san’s crazy technical guitar riffs, the heavy metal drum work, and Mi-chan’s melodious backing vocals that may very well rouse the dead from their eternal slumber (it’s true). After catching some initial flak from fans saying that they were just a Ling Tosite Sigure knock-off (to be fair, they do have some similarities), the Osaka-based duo (they have a revolving drummer) did eventually come into their own as an absolute treat to the ears in their later years. “Tenohira de Odoru” is really just more of that and then some, giving fans another taste of what what I’d consider their trademark aggressive prog-rock style.

YAMABIKO, by NakamuraEmi
Finally, the west can now hear NakamuraEmi spit fire.

Y’see, I’ve loved this song for a long while now (even back when I was still in the Philippines), but when I got to the US I found that they actually region-blocked all of her songs here.That was a year and some change ago. Fast forward to now where, for some reason or another Columbia Music Japan lifted that restriction, and really I’m just excited to let people hear this one. “YAMABIKO” is a song about ‘climbing your own mountain road’; about doing your best in whatever it is you’re doing, which NakamuraEmi (I’m not typo’ing, that’s how she stylizes her name, lol) delivers by dropping straight bars to an acoustic guitar accompaniment (xD). Here’s some bonus footage of her performing this song live.

Glass wo Ware!/ガラスを割れ!, by Keyakizaka46 
Like a brilliant forum poster once said — “Glass wo ware” is like what would happen if a Fall Out Boy song was made to sound like it was sang by a bunch of idols.

*PV Note, The center, Hirate “Tecchi” Yurina tears off a sling in the opening minutes of the video to reference the fact that she had been sidelined with injury at the start of the year after absolutely blasting her triceps dropping elbow first on the stage as part of a routine.

Keyakizaka46’s message (as the “official” rival group to AKB48 alongside Nogizaka46) is about subverting the present state of idols and idol performance (which is all about smiles and being cute) and Glass wo Ware! is the song that I think best exemplifies that. It’s primarily rock-based song, for starters, and quite a catchy one at that. Though still fairly upbeat, you’ll notice a distinct lack of cheery pop that is the norm for most idol groups. It’ll be interesting to see how their little staged rebellion against the system is gonna play out (’cause they’re still technically part of it, lol), but if those cool looks are anything to go by, I’d say we’re in for something good.

Kokoronashi/心做し, by majiko (まじ娘)
Oftentimes we’re quick to forget that before recorded music was predominantly a thing, live performances was what had been considered “real music” and the media that contained it was the reproduction, whereas now it’s the other way around.

Nowadays we see the tracks on album CDs as the “original”, and performances are treated as just live renditions of it. It’s a weird paradigm that we’ve found ourselves in that regard. Of course, even this video recording majiko’s live performance of “Kokoronashi” is itself a recording as well, but I do hope you get my point. What makes it real, aside from having live instruments and an audience of course, is the raw emotion that goes into it. majiko pours her heart out in this performance, and I’d be hard-pressed to imagine how you could replicate that feeling with bare audio. Now, I know for a fact that there’s some performance art at play here (see majiko do the same “breakdown” in a studio version of the song here), but still an immensely heartful performance, cynicism notwithstanding. Also, she totally looks like Black Hanekawa as she’s singing this (xD)

confusion, by nowisee
Pronounced as “noise”, but this is anything but.

Believe it or not, “confusion” actually marks nowisee’s first real appearance as a band in any sort of media. nowisee came about as part of this app-based “cross-content” venture that looked to incorporate both story and music (with more emphasis on the music side) and deliver it as a new form of serialized media — meaning it’s also subscription-based, and pretty much behind a paywall (xD so really not a whole lot is known about this project outside of Japan). As a result the band doing the songs for the project has largely been unseen for the most part until now (well, barely). The band’s inception bears a striking similarity with how EGOIST was formed, interestingly enough, and fans of the latter should also feel right at home with nowisee’s electro pop/rock offerings.

ICHIDAIJI, by POLKADOT STINGRAY (ポルカドットスティングレイ )
I’m actually of two minds featuring this song here.

I love POLKADOT STINGRAY. If I had to rank my favorite bands they’d be in my top five for sure. I think they’re that good. However, I can’t dismiss the notion that their sound is starting to get a bit too polished, wherein the initial appeal to me of this band was their otherwise rambunctious song structures. At the very least “ICHIDAIJI” is definitely easier on the ears than, say, “SYNCHRONISICA”. It’s not necessarily a bad thing though, and depending on how the rest of the songs off the new EP sound, it could again just be another testament to how versatile PDSR are rather than them “selling out” by becoming more palatable to a mainstream market. I’m more inclined to believe the former of course because the last thirty seconds of “ICHIDAIJI” is still very much the sound that I’ve come to know and love from them.

Katame de Ijou ni/片目で異常に恋してる, by Genie High (ジェニーハイ)
Don’t you just love it when two of your favorite artists end up collaborating with each other?

I said POLKADOT STINGRAY would be in my top five, but for sure tricot is my favorite band overall (currently at least). Gesu no Kiwami Otome and indigo la end (fronted by the same vocalist/guitarist), were also two of the first bands I started getting into when I first ventured into Japanese music. So when I found out that the lead singers for these bands were gonna do songs together, it was like two worlds colliding in my head. If there’s anyone that can keep up with the musical eccentricities of Kawatani Enon, then I suppose it should be the equally eccentric Nakajima Ikkyu, vo./gt. for tricot. Being the primary composer, the whole song is textbook Kawatani; from the rhythmic change-ups down to the spoken verses (xD). Ikkyu-san lends her unique vocal prowess to the arrangement making for some very nice progressive pop on the whole. Looking forward to hearing more from their collaboration.

pure circle by JYOCHO
The “trick” to appreciating good instrumentation in songs is to listen to the instruments apart from the actual singing.

Of course this sounds like a no-brainer when I say it like that, but if you think about it, this isn’t really what you’d call common practice when it comes to listening to songs in general. Most conventional arrangements have it so that the overall melody of the singing more or less matches the rhythm of the instruments — this is why you generally see vocalists for bands opt to play rhythm guitar over lead, as it’d be hard to stay on-key otherwise (except if they’re really good). Luckily, with JYOCHO, you don’t have a choice (xD). You’re pretty much forced to take everything in. But don’t be overwhelmed. “pure circle” is very much a playful song after all, despite what JYOCHO’s idiosyncratic style would suggest. Just relax and let music flow through your ears.

Buranko/ぶらんこ by Regal Lily (リーガルリリー)
A late entrant! And probably one of the saddest PVs I’ve seen in a while.

So this would’ve come out, like, three days ago when I started drafting this post (lol). I have to do my round-ups towards the tail end of the month because otherwise I’d miss out on releases like this — and I’ll take any opportunity to feature Regal Lily, even if it meant having to bump SHISHAMO’s new song off my list. Two things stand out to me whenever I hear a Regal Lily song, and it’s “youth” and “potential”. Not only in the sense that Honoka’s vocals sound younger than they ought to be (she’s 20 years old, lol), but they’re still relatively new having only formally started activities 4 years ago, and yet their understanding of rock and their delivery of it here with “Buranko” would lead you to believe otherwise.

– –

Must Listen: pure circle by JYOCHO, Kokoronashi by majiko
I honestly don’t think it’s possible for JYOCHO to make a bad song, and I’ll do everything in my power to let people become aware of that fact. It was a quick turnaround for ’em after I’d just featured “Tagai no Uchuu” last month, but I suppose I should say now that you will see bands/artists that I favor come up more often than those that I only listen to every now and again. majiko’s performance though was just remarkable, and I’d urge everyone to at least watch through it from start to end at least once, as I think it deserves the attention.

So I went a bit overboard this month as I ended up featuring 9 songs, when I said I’d try to keep it at around 7-8, but it really couldn’t be helped. A lot of good songs came out this month and really the hardest part of doing this round-up isn’t so much the writing as it is deciding which songs to put in here and which songs do leave out. I’ve thought about doing a runner-ups/honorable mentions list, but.. I dunno, you guys tell me of you’d want something like that too, where I give just a line or two description for the songs that don’t make the cut for my feature.

If any of you guys also have some ideas for playlist themes, maybe not as an actual round-up like I proposed last month, but maybe just their own posts, then by all means share them down below. I’ll also work on making an actual YouTube playlist for all the songs that I’ll be putting up in these round-ups (I should have that set up by next month).

And that’s about it! Thanks for tuning in. How’d you like this month’s lineup? Were there any songs that stood out to you the most? I’d love to hear your thoughts 😀 Lastly, if you’ve heard anything good this past month (doesn’t have to be Japanese), do feel free to link ’em in the comments section.

Hope you had a fun little sound trip this time around, and if you haven’t yet, do check out last month’s entries as well over here.

See ya next month!

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6 thoughts on “Listening to Japanese Music: Monthly Recommendation Round-Up (March 2018)

  1. I’m sad that I missed this last month ’cause this is pretty awesome! I’m always looking forward to hearing music recs (especially as of late), so this was nice to see 🙂
    I’ve never heard the original version of Kokoronashi before today and damn if majiko’s performance ain’t some kind of amazing. Good stuff!

    Also, since you asked here’s a little something that’s been on repeat for a little while:

    Keep up the good work ^ ^

    • Thanks Carriage :3 Yeah, I kinda sprung that first one on everyone out of nowhere so it was very easy to miss xD I’m really glad you’re tuning in now though!
      It just tugs at heartstrings doesn’t it?

      Ooooh, VERY nice — totally slipped under my radar too! I only know this one song by yorushika (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BCt9lS_Uv_Y), but yeah, they’re something else too.

      Will do. I’m already excited for next month. Hope to see ya then 😀

  2. ang angas nung yamibiko. grabe, she is really spitting fire. ang sarap sa tenga.
    ang bagal masyado nung glass no ware. i think it does try to be different, pero parang di kaya mismo nung members ung gimmick. di ako expert pero i still don’t like idols :p (nahanap mo n b ung idols n puro tomboy?)
    ang ganda ng kokoronashi. i love live music. is majiko’s album worth hunting down? anu ideal kong simulan? i like her voice pero ka d nmn solid ung discography nya. kaw bahala boss. xD
    noise does sound like Egoist. i like it *thumbs up*
    and omg, yes, i love you. i love ichidaiji, eto ung mga trip kong band. ung instrument and rhythm heavy tapos dala nung vocals ung kanta. parang chatmonchy at shishamo. thank you ,leap. this is why i’m subscribed to this monthly post. DL ko agad cla
    mas trip ko instrumentals nung pure circle, lol. masaya xa.

    • ~ astigin eh no. we need more AcoGui/Rap with strong female vocals (lol, such a niche genre xD)
      ~ yeah, close to my issue with Drop’s if you remember them from last month. I like that they’re trying something new though, that’s for sure. You don’t have to like them to appreciate good music! (nah, I’ll let you know if I see ’em, lol)
      ~ majiko is pretty Jpop, being a former utaite and all, and since you did mention that you like vocaloid then you might really like her other stuff. As a bonus for you, she also did this sweet cover of Earth, Wind & Fire’s ‘September’ (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6BYML7CylMo)
      ~ eyyy, happy to spread the love xD Polkadot Stingray is great yes — crazy good guitar work and solid vocals (I’d tag-in sliceofalfredo here if I could, lol). Plus they just have an air to them that’s just oozing confidence in what they do. Definitely check out their other stuff when you have the time. I’m sure they won’t disappoint.
      ~ I like JYOCHO’s somber tunes a bit more, but yeah, sometimes happy-sounding melodies are good too, lol

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